Taiwo Agboola, is one of the young
Nigerians who started early among his equals. A young entrepreneur with an
outstanding impact in the marketing communication, providing all forms of
marketing communication through his company.

He uses other aspect of his
business, digital media to provide online solutions to as many clients as
possible. He is the Chief Operating Officer, 7interactive Limited. In this
interview with Moses Nosike, Agboola said, SMEs, entrepreneurs are facing
hurdles transacting business in Nigeria for lack of infrastructural development
and finance.

Excerpts: With your experience in business operation in Nigeria,
what are major setbacks? It is clear and open to every business concern in
Nigeria that over the years, the issue of infrastructure has been a major challenge
to business operation in Nigeria. Apart from the epileptic power supply that
has forced many business operations to close down, and with the remaining
spending huge sums to buy diesel to power their operation. 

You also pay
workers’ salaries and they in turn use it to provide various level of needs for
themselves because if they are not happy, the company would not move forward.
Economic policies also affect our business. We have clients and suppliers
outside the country, and it has been a huge challenge meeting financial
obligations in dollars. 

The CBN FOREX policy has had a huge albeit negative
impact on some of our business transactions. We have had to wait for weeks/
months to get FOREX to settle some obligations. Those are some of the issues
facing business operations in Nigeria. 

Whenever government pronounced a policy,
it has either positive or adverse effects on business in the country. Mr-taiwo-1
on infrastructure and power, what is your advice to Mr President? First, there
seems to have been some improvement in the past weeks. I know we have had
constant power for two weeks now, and I hope it continues. 

So we have reduced
running cost. I also read in the papers of a purported ‘emergency’ bill to be
forwarded to the National Assembly by the President, in order to re-jig the
economy. The truth of the matter is that if we take a holistic look at business
here, you would discover that nothing is happening, and we all are clamouring
for foreign investors to invest here.

How can they come when our airports are
eye sore? they go through hell to get visa. I think the President and National
Assembly need to come to terms with the reality that things are very difficult
in the country now. Both the President and the National Assembly should
harmonize and discuss ultimately in order to shore things up in the economy. 

The situation in the country requires urgent attention, it is affecting
everything and Nigerians are not finding it easy to live. Are you attributing
low development of vocational centre/ SMEs for reason of unemployment in the
country? I believe this is a reflection of the decline in the system. 

up, there used to be a lot of emphasis on vocational studies. I believe the
idea then was to inculcate in us that not all will be suited for a white-collar

There were several vocational schools in and around the country, teaching
students one vocation or the other. I can recall the Federal Technical College,
Yaba those years. 

Now I don’t know what happened to that school. We’ve read of
countries like China and some other countries with less emphasis on paper
qualification. In our own case, we don’t have good technical schools these days
where people can acquire skills for self-employment. 

Again, most of our youths
are not ready to take time and learn skills. Today there is dearth of artisans
in the country. In Lagos, you have to bring people from Cotonou even the
Chinese are picking some of these jobs. It’s a high time we restored our
vocational trainings, schools and centres to their old, glorious heights. 

from primary to secondary schools we need to tell our children that it’s not
only paper qualifications but if they acquire skills it will help them in life.
Again, SME financing is another challenge because most banks in this country
would rather support Oil & Gas, construction industries. 

The interest rate
offering to SMEs is high and unaffordable. There are just a couple of support
for SMEs. So it’s important we address the issue of financing SMEs. Lack of
basic infrastructure also affects SMEs. If they are assured of power supply,
the cost of their operations would reduce and business will grow.

Again, we
need to buy Nigerian products. Patronise SMEs for them to grow. Most of us
patronise foreign made goods instead of home made goods. FG has agreed to give
a tax rebate to SMEs, how do you see that development? If it’s carried out, it
will go along way developing SMEs in the country. Tax rebate will help them
have more money to plunge into their businesses. 

It would reduce some stress in
their operation. Before now, SMEs are weighed down because of multiple
taxation, but if this decision is implemented, it’s a win, win for all. Bank of
Industry has been sponsoring community projects, youth empowerment, SMEs in the
country, what is your take on this? It’s an interesting initiative, but we need
to do more. 

This kind of projects and empowerment need more awareness. Most
people are not aware of these empowerment efforts of the BoI. There ought to be
communication strategy to drive awareness for such a laudable programmes so
that people can ask questions on how they can be part of it. BoI should partner
SMEDAN (if not already doing so) to reach network of SMEs that need these

Some banks complain that some SMEs don’t have accurate record keeping
that could attract access to credit from banks, do you think that way? Maybe
the banks can partner with SMEDAN to educate the SME community on the process
and conditions of access to credit in banks; monitor them and maybe act as
guarantors to access such credit. 

They would also ensure prompt payment of such
grants/ loans, because the truth of the matter is if a bank borrows you money
and you don’t return it, the tendency is for the bank to stop the issuance of
such loans.

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